Tag Archives: Wildlife

Lions and Tigers

Lions and Tigers

Lions and tigers adorn his walls;

prints of paintings, in wooden frames.

Lions and tigers; these are all

the pictures that adorn his walls.

 

Prints of paintings, in wooden frames,

by a wildlife artist, of deserved fame.

Lions and tigers; these are all

that hang, accusingly, on his walls.

 

The room is, surely, far too small

for the lions and tigers on the walls.

The psychiatrist stares, overwhelmed by all

the lions and tigers on the walls.

 

Some peel away; surely a sin.

Some reveal the ferocity within.

Lion roars, tiger jaws;

seize the prey, with lion paws.

Tear the heart out, with tiger claws.

 

The psychiatrist pauses;

takes a deep breath.

Prepares for a mauling;

prepares for a death.

I remember the first time I entered a living-room that had been recently re-decorated, and couldn’t help noticing that all the walls were covered by a number of framed prints of paintings of lions and tigers.  After sitting in the room for a while, I began to feel slightly uncomfortable, and realised it was the unsettling effect of the pictures of the ferocious wild animals; it was almost as if they were gazing at me, sizing me up as likely prey.  I was relaxing in the bath recently, reading a review of a highly-praised collection of poems all about wild animals, and the idea for the Lions and Tigers poem suddenly came into my mind.

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The Poem I’ve Rewritten the Most

Airs

 “Airs! Airs! Look! Airs!”
The dumpy woman next to me
tugs my sleeve, insistent.
I must turn in my seat;
try to follow her gaze.

This is a nightmare journey:
trying to travel by train
in England, on a Sunday.
No trains, it transpires,
just this ancient, battered bus,
stuttering through towns, villages;
stopping, incessantly, stopping . . .
Now, it trundles through open countryside.

“Look! Look! Airs!”
What on earth is the woman . . .
Airs? Heirs? Where? . . .
I look. I stare.
Nothing. But wait . . . There!
Stock-still; next second
a pale brown streak
across the shimmering field.
Those ears! Quicksilver motion;
thrilling, so rare . . .

The woman’s eyes shine with delight.
My spirits lift, with sudden insight.

It was back in April 2013 that I completed what was to be the first version of a poem with the title “Airs”.  I went on to post the original version in this blog in February 2014.  Since then, it has undergone innumerable alterations, and I’ve never been completely happy with it; but I think this latest version is probably as near as I’ll come to being satisfied with it.

The genesis of the poem is quite simple.  I was sitting in a crowded bus, travelling through open countryside – it was supposed to be a train journey, but, due to the inefficiency of the train service on Sunday, I found myself on a slow, antiquated bus instead.  The woman sitting next to me suddenly tugged on my arm, and started repeatedly saying the word “Airs!” – that’s what it sounded like, to me, anyway.  It was only after a few minutes of concentrated gazing into the surrounding countryside, trying to follow what the woman was looking at, that I finally realized what she was actually saying – and it’s taken me over four years, trying to express it in a poem.

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